James 3:1


Bible Study Notes
The Responsibility of Teachers
James 3:1


The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff for use as a Bible Study aid.

Intro. - James now turns his attention to a consideration of the use of the tongue. He is concerned with both speech and conduct (cf. 2:12). He has dealt in detail with the importance of works (2:14-26) and now he takes up the matter of the tongue.

He touched on this subject earlier (cf. 1:19,26), and now he is ready to deal with it in some detail.

Actions are seen as essential in the revelation of a person's character (2:14-26). Our words reveal our character as well. The background for James' discussion may be Jesus' teaching on the subject (cf. Matt. 12:34-37).

James begins his discussion with a warning to those who would be teachers (v. 1). Then he shows the importance of controlling the tongue (v. 2).

3:1 -
Because of the prominence and importance of the teacher, some were desiring to be recognized as teachers without considering carefully the seriousness of the responsibility involved.

Let not many - This would indicate that the number of teachers in a group would not be large. They will make up a small percentage.

my brethren - shows he is dealing with believers, not false teachers.

The reason for being careful about becoming a teacher is "we shall incur a stricter judgment." James includes himself here as a teacher.

The judgment referred to here is the Judgment Seat (bema) of Christ. All believers will give an account before Christ of their service for Him in this life (cf. Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor, 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Though all believers must appear before this Judgment Seat to be evaluated by Christ, teachers will be judged more severely. Increased responsibility and influence mean greater accountability on their part.

The word "stricter" (greater - a comparative adjective) indicates there will be degrees of judgment at this Judgment Seat. This seems to be true of all the judgments of Scripture (cf. Matt. l0:14,15 - different judgment but same principle).

Being a teacher is the most important responsibility in the church today (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28 - apostles and prophets are no longer present).

The Scripture indicates that this is a special gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 12:g,7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11).

Three things must be true of a believer who would be a teacher:

  1. Know the Truth - If a person does not have a thorough knowledge of the Word of God, he obviously will not be able to teach others (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:3-11, esp. v. 7).

  2. Live the Truth - This has been the thrust of James (cf. 1:22-25). Godliness is to characterize all believers, but this must be especially true of the leaders. The qualifications of elders would fit here since they are to be teachers of the Word (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

  3. Teach the Truth - This would seem to be obvious but it is sadly lacking today. Unbelieving teachers present their traditions (cf. Matt. 15:8,9). But even among believers there is a dearth of sound Bible teaching.

We need to remind ourselves that it is the Scriptures that are alive and powerful (cf. Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16,17).

The apostle Paul said he would stand before Christ confidently because he had faithfully taught the Word of God (cf. Acts 20:26,27).

Unbelievers need to hear the glorious message of the gospel so that they can believe and be saved (cf. Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23).

Believers need to be nourished on a healthy diet of pure teaching so they can grow in their new life in Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 2:2).

God has ordained that the leadership of His people will be in the hands of godly men whom He has appointed. These elders are responsible for the teaching in the body as well. This does not mean that every teacher must have the office of elder, but the three areas we have considered must characterize the teacher.

Today we have given the leadership of the church over to entertainers. Even as believers we are guilty of ignoring the clear teaching of God's Word. Teachers are guilty of trying to please the people in their teaching. James gives a strong, clear reminder that teachers must be very careful. They have greater responsibility and will have a greater judgment before Christ. Our desire is to be found pleasing to Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:9-11).

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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